The Englishman who taught Brazil to play football

Laura White
Laura White

Watching the football friendly match between England and Brazil the other day reminds me of a story I found during the 1998 World Cup.

I came across a story about a chap called Charles Miller, he was a railway engineer and a rather good footballer who played for St Mary’s (now Southampton FC).

In 1894 Charles got posted to São Paulo in Brazil to build a railway, with him he took two footballs, a pair of football boots, a pump and a copy of the Football Association rule book.

Charles Miller was the man who took football to Brazil, he also started Corinthians, now one of the biggest football teams on the planet. I managed to find a photograph of Miller when he was a player with St Mary’s and then found a telephone number in the São Paulo phone book for his daughter Helena who was a very old lady living in the city.

I called her and arranged a meeting at her apartment on the Monday. I flew to Brazil and interviewed Helena and then we hired a taxi to drive us to the Charles Miller Stadium where I took photographs of Helena with some local kids playing football.

When we got back to her apartment I offered to pay the taxi, but the taxi driver would have none of it; it was an honour to have met and driven Helena, whose father had brought football to Brazil.

That afternoon at 4 o’clock, like every afternoon during the 1998 World Cup, Helena would sit down in her living room and her maid would bring her tea on a silver tray and she would watch the football surrounded by her father Charles Miller’s mementos.

Local LifeSport